WRITTEN BY DANIEL ADAY, RIZIKON SAFETY & LOSS PREVENTION SPECIALIST
Mental health is quickly becoming a topic for concern throughout the modern-day working environment. Michigan’s Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) is addressing some of these concerns and challenges that very well may be occurring in your own workplace. According to LEO, 65 percent of employees surveyed identified their job as the number one stress in their lives, along with 76 percent total who are having at least one symptom of mental health conditions and 81 percent who reported that they look for workplaces that support mental health. Mental well-being is critical to not only one’s health but also to workplace productivity, reduced turnover rates, overall satisfaction and, of course, workplace safety.
There are four main principles that make up a healthy workplace, according to the World Health Organization; the physical workplace, personal health resources and psychosocial characteristics. What you or your company could be doing to improve your working environment may not even involve making any actual change in the type of work employees do, but rather the influence of everything else. Employees who quit or leave a company or position rarely cite the physical duties of the job. Rather they list poor workplace conditions, lack of communication, poor work-life balance, lack of respect from upper management, pressures of the job and job security.
It is important that you address your working environment separately from anyone else’s. Two companies that offer similar services or are in the same category of business in a similar area may have entirely different employee levels of mental wellbeing. Determining what your employees and coworkers are experiencing is the first step in creating a positive working environment. Starting with anonymous surveys, employee suggestion boxes, exit interviews and simply listening to complaints may be a step in the right direction, if followed up with changes. Are you prepared to tackle the challenge of negative reviews, complaints and suggestions? If not, surveying may only solidify poor mental wellness.
How you can improve your workplace is based upon what resources you have available. Easy to tackle improvements are things as simple as building trust with employees by listening and showing you care, by showing empathy, positive confirmations and inclusion. Slightly harder improvements, but beneficial, will be a good employee assistance program that is made available to all employees, increasing employee benefits such as a couple of extra vacation days or PTO, promoting company culture, increasing wellness training and improving the physical workplace. Pizza parties are the thing of the past. A good pizza will only last for so long, but improving the culture will be long-lasting and investing in your employees will likely result in increased morale. A working environment does not need to be a “family” but it should have great communication, involvement and trust.
The benefit of positive mental wellness is one of the most important factors in dealing with a good safety culture. When people are less stressed, they are less likely to be distracted, more likely to be aware of their surroundings. and more likely to do things safely. These are all critical aspects to reducing common injuries. Having employee involvement with safety is also critical. Things like safety audits on site, accident investigations, company safety meetings and safety steering committees are a must for a physical work location. These show the importance of your employees. When your employees come first with mental wellness, safety and overall happiness, things like productivity, efficiency, employee retention, reduced workers’ compensation rates and even increased profits, will likely fall into place. There is never a bad time to start improving your workplace mental health and safety, so start today.